The Calimport sewers echoed with cries of dying lycanthropes.
The enraged wererats wanted to rip the drow and the druid to pieces, but their movement had been impeded.
In the center of a narrow corridor was a spinning whirlwind of daggers.
If they hugged the walls, they could squeeze past this deadly cloud undamaged.
But that would take time…
Just enough time for a certain drow warlock to prepare her Eldritch Blast…
Cloud of Daggers 5e Guide: Bottomline
Just like the name implies, Cloud of Daggers is a conjuration spell that creates a bunch of flying daggers that can be used to damage your opponents. The cloud cannot be moved and it’s a concentration spell, but if used optimally, it can deal damage for up to 10 rounds.
Some of the strong points are that the damage is magical slashing, a more reliable damage type than regular slashing or most energy attacks and there is no roll to hit and no save. Your victim just has to take it.
How Does Cloud of Daggers Work?
You create a cube 5 x 5 x 5 feet. The cube is centered on a point of your choice within the spell’s range.
Inside the cube are spinning daggers that deal 4d4 points of slashing damage. The damage is inflicted when a creature enters the AOE (area of effect) for the first time or when it begins its turn there. As per the Player’s Handbook (PHB) on p. 222, here are its stats:
Cloud of Daggers
- 2nd level Conjuration
- Casting Time: 1 action
- Range: 60 feet
- Components: V, S, M (a sliver of glass)
- Duration: Concentration, up to 1 minute
Is Cloud of Daggers Scalable at Higher Levels?
Yes. The damage is increased by 2d4 for each spell slot above 2nd level.
Who Can Use Cloud of Daggers?
Is Cloud of Daggers Good?
Yes. Cloud of Daggers is a good spell, provided you know how to maximize concentration spells. Ideally, you need some method of forcing your victims to remain and/or renter your Cloud of Damage so that they take more than 1 round of damage.
Putting It All On the Cloud
In order to maximize your cloud damage, it helps to understand some nuances about AOE and concentration casting.
Entering AOE and When the Damage Starts
So, we know that creatures who enter into a Cloud of Daggers get instantly damaged and then continue to suffer damage every round that they remain in the AOE for the spell’s duration.
What happens when you cast Cloud of Daggers on an enemy’s hex and the enemy doesn’t have to enter into the AOE because it is already there?
This has been a point of contention on internet forums like Reddit.
A lenient DM would say that the damage starts immediately on casting and that there is an opportunity to do more damage at the start of your opponent’s turn. In effect, you do 8d4 damage in 1 round.
A strict DM would say that the damage starts only when the opponent begins his or her turn. I would side with the strict DMs on this one because the game designers tend to be very deliberate in the wording of their spells. D&D has been around for nearly 50 years and by 5e, designers have come to anticipate the army of rules lawyers pleading their cases.
Of course, in terms of physics, you would expect the flying knives to start doing damage the moment they appear in an opponent’s hex. These are not mundane knives, however; they are magical knives. Therefore, there is something in the magic of the cloud that waits until the opponent’s turn to deal damage.
It’s as if knowing that one is in trouble is part of the damage. In role-playing terms, this actually makes sense because this is a somewhat sadistic spell.
With that logic, a lot can happen in the interim between the spell’s casting and the start of the victim’s turn. If the caster is killed or rendered unconscious during the interim, there is no damage. If the victim is somehow removed from the cloud by an ally on the ally’s turn during the interim (Telekinesis, Bigby’s Hand, etc.), there is no damage.
Jeremy Crawford Ruling
For those who don’t know, Jeremy Crawford is basically the rules designer for D&D and the final authority on 5e rules: game architect of Dungeons & Dragons at Wizards of the Coast and lead designer of the D&D Player’s Handbook.
On his Twitter account, he has effectively stated that the caster’s 5x5x5-foot cube can have part of each corner of the cube be placed on a hex/square, to effectively take up 4 hexes/squares instead of one:
Basically, according to Crawford, the caster’s victims don’t need to be exposed to the entire cloud to suffer damage, a piece of the cloud within the victim’s hex is enough to cause damage. Therefore, the cloud can be spread out over 4 hexes.
Concentration and Your Cloud
A popular misconception about concentration casting is that you can’t fight and cast spells while you have a concentration spell. That’s simply not true.
You can even take damage and, as long as you have a good Constitution, you’ll pass your Constitution check and your spell will continue to take effect. The problem, however, is that casting another concentration spell will end the original concentration spell.
This is a real problem for Cloud of Daggers because it has a small AOE (area or effect) and does not move. Therefore, it is relatively easy for the caster’s victim to move out of the AOE and not suffer any further damage. Of course, other spells can be used to contain the victim within the AOE. Ironically, these spells are concentration spells.
School of Conjuration wizards have an added benefit in that they do not have to roll a Constitution save for Cloud of Daggers or any other concentration spell.
For those who want to learn more about the nuances of concentration casting, please check my Moonbeam 5e Guide: Radiant Artillery.
Containment and Your Cloud
Above I spoke about the problem of containing your victim(s) in your Cloud of Daggers so that they are forced to take damage for more than 1 turn. Containment spells that would suit this purpose include but are not limited to:
- Spike Growth
- Wall of Ice
As I also stated above, there is a catch-22:
- You need to concentrate to maintain your Cloud of Daggers.
- You need a containment spell to keep your victim(s) from leaving your Cloud of Daggers.
- Most containment spells are concentration spells.
- You can’t concentrate on 2 spells at once.
- If you cast a 2nd concentration spell, you end your 1st concentration spell.
If you want to maximize your Cloud of Daggers, the best solution is usually to have 2 casters; 1 for Cloud of Daggers and 1 for a containment spell.
Cleaning the Sewers
The city of Calimport has been plagued by at least 1 pack of wererats. They roam the streets at night to hunt and steal and even multiply. During the day, they make the city sewers their lair. Because of their immunity to non-magical weapons, they are more than a match for the typical city watch patrol.
(Full disclosure: Calimport’s wererat problem is an homage to R.A. Salvatore’s The Halfling’s Gem.)
Semiramis, a female drow Pact of the Blade warlock with an Archfey patron, feels like she can “smoke a whole pack a day”. Due to the limitations of Cloud of Daggers, however, she will need at least 1 additional caster to contain the wererats within her cloud. (Technically, her cloud is a cube.)
Conchobar, a human Circle of the Moon druid, accepts the task. Alone the bold pair explore the sewers. Their mission: extermination.
Drow Pact of the Blade warlock with an Archfey patron (female)
|Ability Scores Total
|Pact of Rapier. +5/+3 Dam 1d8+3 (4-11)
|Studded leather, Rapier
Spells and Cantrips
Fey Presence: Wisdom save vs Warlock spell DC
Innate magic spells due to Infernal Legacy are italics. Spells from the Additional Magic Secrets feature are in boldface.
|Cantrips (2) +1
|Eldritch Blast, Minor Illusion, Vicious Mockery, Dancing Lights
|1st level (2) +1
|Comprehend Languages, Detect Magic, Sleep, Faerie Fire
|Cloud of Daggers, Shatter
|Agonizing Blast, Repelling Blast
Human Circle of the Moon druid (male)
|Ability Scores Total
|Silver Dagger +5/+3 Dam 1d4+3 (4-7)
|Studded leather, Rapier, Wooden Shield, Silver Dagger
Spells and Cantrips
|1st level (4) +1
|Animal Friendship, Entangle, Speak With Animals, Thunderwave
|2nd level (2) +2
|Beast Sense, Moonbeam
Meet the Wererat Pack
10 wererats with equal stats.
dam 3-8 (5)
Speed 30 ft. Skills Perception +2, Stealth +4, Advantage on Smell Checks
Damage Immunities: Nonmagical Bludgeoning/Piercing/Slashing
Shortsword and Hand Crossbow + extra bite attack 1d4 DC11 Constitution or Lycanthropy infection
Our 2 exterminators enter the sewers a couple of hours before noon, because they want to make sure the wererats are home, below the surface, and not out hunting. Semiramis, a drow, has darkvision but Conchobar, a human, does not.
Conchobar solves this problem when he sees a cute, little rat, a normal rat, scurrying about one of the tunnels. The druid offers the little critter some food and casts Speak With Animals and before starting the conversation,
“Hello, little friend. We mean you no harm. Have you seen or heard or smelt a group of people that can turn into rats?”
The rodent pauses for a minute, not sure if he should answer.
Conchobar rolls an Insight check and is certain that the rat knows the whereabouts of at least 1 lycanthrope pack. Of course, Conchobar thinks. Rats and wererats share a common bond. The little fellow doesn’t want to betray his brothers.
Admiring the critter’s loyalty, the druid casts Animal Friendship on the rat.
The rat with its 10 Wisdom has to roll a DC 8 Wisdom saving throw to resist the spell. Conchobar, however, has a casting modifier of +5, so that the rat must roll a 13 or better. The rat fails the Wisdom saving throw and becomes Conchobar’s friend,
“Don’t worry, my little friend. We have more food to take to your big friends and they’ll be very happy with you.”
The rat pauses for another moment, before responding,
“I know where they are. I can take you.”
“Excellent my little friend. Lunch is on me.”
Conchobar takes out some more food and gestures for the rat to eat out of the druid’s hand.
As the rat’s mouth touches the palm of the druid’s hand to take more food, Conchobar casts Beast Sense.
Now, Conchobar can see, hear, and smell through the rat. He is completely oblivious to his own surroundings, however, and Semiramis has to lead him by the hand. Being that Semiramis is an attractive female drow elf, Conchobar doesn’t mind this one bit. Before the rat departs, Conchobar issues 1 final request,
“One more thing, my little friend. Please don’t move too quickly. We humans aren’t so good in the dark.”
The rat laughs and retorts, “You humans aren’t so good at a lot of things.”
As the rat scurries through tunnels, everything becomes grey to Conchobar and appears as if it were dim light 30 feet ahead of him. Beyond that, there is only darkness.
The sewers are a maze of man-made tunnels and aqueducts with an occasional staircase for descending to the lower levels. The floors, walls, and ceilings all have smooth slabs and bricks while the tunnel maze is relatively symmetrical. Therefore, the DM decides to use a square grid rather than a hex grid.
After about 10 minutes, Conchobar can no longer communicate with the rat because his Speak With Animals Spell has expired. His Beast Sense Spell, however, still has another 50 minutes.
Battle in the Sewers
After 20 minutes total, Conchobar can smell the strong odor, through the rat, of a large group of something. After 30 minutes total the rat comes to a dead end with a fork that goes both right and left. The rat makes a right turn and sees the following:
10 human-like creatures with rat-heads are moving in a 2-by-2 formation down the tunnel. The tunnel is 10 feet wide and goes down some distance. Each square on the grid is 5 feet. So, the tunnel is 2 squares across and an unknown number of squares long. Each wererat occupies 1 square, so their formation is 2 columns, 5 rows, and 2 wererats per row.
The DM places all tokens on the battle map: S = Semiramis, C= Conchobar, W1-W10 = wererats 1-10
Conchobar’s player Patrick asks the DM if he can use the rat as a spotter to cast Entangle Spell. The DM answers,
“Yes, you can, but the moment you cast Entangle, your Beast Sense Spell will end.”
Conchobar has to act quickly because he doesn’t want his little rat friend to scurry into the drow’s deadly cloud.
Conchobar’s player Patrick asks the DM if he can use the rat as a spotter to cast Entangle Spell. The DM answers,
“Yes, you can, but the moment you cast Entangle, your Beast Sense Spell will end.
Conchobar has to act quickly because he doesn’t want his little rat friend to scurry into the drow’s deadly cloud. Conchobar waits until the wererat formation is exactly 25 feet from the corner where the druid’s rat scout made his right-hand turn and then casts Entangle Spell. He wills the AOE (area of effect) to begin 1 foot in front of the wererat formation. (He wants that extra foot of AOE to prevent the rat scout from running into the impending Cloud of Daggers.)
The AOE for Entangle, 20 x 20 feet, is much larger than Cloud of Daggers, 5 x 5 feet. Normally it would trap the 1st 4 rows of wererats and leave the last row not trapped. Patrick, however, asks if he could use the surplus AOE of his spell to cover the last row and the DM says yes. (Entangle enables 20 feet of width, but Conchobar only needs 10 feet of width because his target is in a tunnel. Therefore, the DM rules that Conchobar can use the extra 10 feet of width, surplus AOE, to cover the back row of wererats. Consequently, all 10 wererats are in the Entanglement AOE.) Conchobar then uses his movement to get within 10 feet of the Entanglement’s AOE. The druid’s link with the rat is over, as is his turn.
Semiramis begins her turn by casting Cloud of Daggers. She wills her 5 x 5-foot cube to appear midway between the first 4 wererats at a point that touches both the 1st 2 columns and the 1st 2 rows. This cube is represented by a purple square on the battle map. She uses her turn’s movement to make sure she has a good firing position in case any wererats break out of the cloud.
The DM marks tokens W1-W4 as being trapped in the cloud.
The 4 wererats begin their turn by taking 4d4 magical slashing damage (10 points each) from which their non-magical weapon immunity does not protect. All 10 wererats attempt to break free of Conchobar’s Entanglement Spell.
Each wererat has to roll a DC 8 Strength saving throw. Because they all have Strength 10 and Conchobar has a casting modifier of +5, each wererat must roll a 13. 4 Wererats escape the Entangle Spell: W3, W5, W7, W9. The other 6 wererats are trapped, 3 of them in the cloud: W1, W2, and W4.
Even the wererats that are free are slowed down by the difficult terrain of the Entangle, the hazards of the Cloud of Daggers, and the obstacles created by the other wererats that are still trapped.
Conchobar crouches low behind his wooden shield to avoid any missile fire. He also draws his silver dagger and passes it to the hand holding his shield. He wants his right hand free for casting.
Semiramis takes a ready position to zap the first wererat to break through her Cloud of Daggers with Eldritch Blast.
The free wererat, W3, uses its movement to traverse both the Entangle and the Cloud of Daggers. It will not take damage from the Cloud for this turn. It decides to exit the cloud forward rather than backward and charges toward the druid.
Because Semiramis has taken ready action, she can attack with her Eldritch Blast before the werewolf can attack the drow. Semiramis’s player Sally asks the DM,
“Can the Invocations Agonizing Blast and Repellant Blast both stack with Eldritch Blast in the same turn? Here’s a Reddit link that says they can.
The DM rules that Invocation stacking is in play and Semiramis makes her ranged attack and hits the wererat. Damage is rolled and the wererat takes 6 from the Eldritch Blast plus 3 from Agonizing Blast due to Semiramis’s Charisma modifier and is pushed 10 feet back into the Cloud of Daggers due to the Repellant Blast. There is no save. The wererat, however, will not take any damage from the cloud until the beginning of its next turn.
The other 3 free wererats (W5, W7, and W9) need their entire movement to get past the obstacles mentioned above. They only have 2 ½ space between the Cloud of Daggers and the walls on each side, plus there are trapped wererats within that space. The DM rolls a check to see if the wererats retreat instead. The wererats decide to fight but they will not be able to attack the druid until the next turn.
The other 3 wererats that are trapped in the cloud take another 10 points of magical slashing damage.
There 3 more wererats (W6, W8, and W10) that are not inside the Cloud of Daggers. They all fail to break the Entanglement.
Conchobar takes the Ready action to wait for when the 3 incoming wererats (W5, W7, W9) approach him. Semiramis takes the Ready action in case any wererats get too close to Conchobar.
The 3 approaching wererats breach the Cloud of Daggers. As they form up, Conchobar, standing about 7 feet in front of the cloud, yells a warning to Semiramis and casts Thunderwave, creating a 15 x 15 x 15-foot cube of thunderous force.
All 3 wererats (W5, W7, W9) plus the 2 in the front row of the Cloud of Daggers (W1, W2) are hit by the Thunderwave cube. All 5 have to roll a Strength save. Only 1 makes it (W9).
W5 and W7 sustain 2d8 thunder damage (5 points) and are plunged 10 feet back. Because they were 7 feet in front of the cloud, the 10 feet-back push places them 3 feet within the 5 x 5 x 5-foot cube AOE of the Cloud of Daggers Spell.
The 2 wererats that had been trapped in the cloud are actually freed from the cloud because the thunderous wave pushes them back 10 feet and through the 5 x 5 x 5-foot cloud and out the other side. Had Conchobar cast his spell at the beginning of his turn and before the wererats’ turn, he would have actually saved them from taking damage from the Cloud of Daggers. However, since he had taken the Ready action and waited for the wererats to use their movement to approach him, the Thunderwave happens during the wererats’ turn and the wererats in the cloud start their turn in the cloud and must take that damage as well. The 2 wererats in the front row of the cloud had been taking magical slashing damage for 3 rounds (30 points total) and now must take an additional 5 points of thunder damage for a total of 35 points of damage deducted from their 33 hit points. With those 2 wererats dead, 8 are left.
The one who had been thrown into the cloud by the Repellant Blast the previous round, W3, also takes cloud damage at the beginning of the turn but is also freed from the cloud by the Thunderwave but does not survive the wave.
The DM removes W1, W2, and W3 from the battle map.
The one remaining wererat that had been approaching Conchobar gets hit by another Eldritch/Agonizing/Repellant blast and is also pushed into the cloud to start taking damage next turn.
Conchobar uses his remaining movement to get behind Semiramis.
Semiramis draws her Pact of the Blade rapier and casts Shatter at the center of the werewolf formation. A 10-foot sphere engulfs both the 2 rows within the cloud and 2 rows behind the cloud.
The DM makes calculations and adjusts the tokens on the battle map.
W1, W2, and W3 are dead.
W4, W5, W7, and W9 are in the cloud.
W6, W8, and W10 are behind the cloud but caught within the Shatter sphere and the Entangle AOE.
W6, W8, and W10 take 3d8 (16) thunder damage but W10 breaks free and decides to run away.
W4 starts its 4th and final turn in the Cloud of Daggers before it dies.
W5 and W7 took 5 from the Thunderwave in Round 3, and in Round 4 take 10 from the Cloud of Daggers and 15 from the Shatter Spell for a total of 31 and are left with 2 hit points each.
W9 took 8 from Agonizing Blast Round 3 and in Round 4 takes 10 from the Cloud of Daggers and 15 from the Shatter Spell for a total of 33, killing it.
The DM removes W4, W9, and W10 from the battle map.
There are now only 4 wererats left in the battle.
W5 and W7 are certain to die at the beginning of their next turn.
W6 and W8 are still trapped in Entangle and have lost half their hit points.
At the beginning of the next round, Semiramis will have 6 turns left to finish the 2 remaining wererats with her Eldritch/Agonizing blasts before the Entanglement Spell expires. This battle is effectively over.
Question: Can vines, thorns, and other vegetable-related structures from offensive druid spells be damaged by Cloud of Daggers?
Answer: No. Such structures don’t have turns, so they suffer no damage. Obviously, treants, myconids, and other vegetable creatures that have turns suffer damage.
Question: How does Cloud of Daggers affect damage resistance and immunities?
Answer: Creatures that are immune to non-magical slashing/piercing/bludgeoning damage, like wererats, are not immune to the magical slashing damage of Cloud of Daggers. Everything about the daggers in that cloud is magical: they are conjured, they are moving via an invisible force, they do not inflict damage until the victim begins its turn, etc. The slashing damage from those daggers is 100% magical.
Creatures that are resistant to slashing/piercing/bludgeoning damage, like raging barbarians, are resistant to Cloud of Daggers unless it is specifically stated that the damage has to be non-magical.
Question: Did Jeremy Crawford say that DMs have to allow Cloud of Daggers to affect more than 1 square or hex?
Answer: No. Crawford specifically stated, “unless DM says effects snap to the grid” to allow for DMs who only want 1 square/hex per Cloud of Daggers Spell.
Cloud of Daggers allows you to deal magical slashing damage for up to 10 rounds. Its best strength is that the damage is inevitable for any creature that begins its turn within the AOE; there is no roll to hit and no saving throw. Its weaknesses are that it’s a concentration spell, cannot be moved, and has a small AOE.
In the scenario above, these problems were solved by adding a 2nd caster. By combining Cloud of Daggers with Entangle, the enemy had to deal with a dangerous area, difficult terrain, and losing all movement. The dangerous area created by the Cloud of Daggers bought the 2 casters an extra turn with which to deal push their enemies into the cloud before being attacked themselves. (Repellant Blast and Thunderwave)
The fact that some wererats were able to break free of the Entangle Spell while others could not wound up actually helping the casters. Because they only had to fight no more than 3 wererats at a time, rather than all 10 at once, the 2 casters could destroy the enemy piece-by-piece. In military terms, this would be described as defeat in detail, first coined during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815).
If you like Semiramis, she was first introduced in Drow 5e Guide: The Characters we Love to Play, the Monsters we Hate to Fight and has also been featured in Blade Ward 5e Guide. Conchobar made his debut in Moonbeam 5e Guide: Radiant Artillery.